Wheatfield residents are celebrating a victory in the fight against the use of a liquid fertilizer. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley reports a ban was recently passed by the Wheatfield Town Board, but residents say they still have an uphill battle.
"We feel it is a win, but we wish we could have gotten them to leave the area completely. That would have been our dream," said Julie Otto, Wheatfield resident and activist.
Otto has been working to lead the fight against the use of equate by Quasar Energy Group. The company has operations in both Erie and Niagara Counties.
Residents say the liquid fertilizer is a harmful product that contains human waste. The town ban will still allow farmers to spread equate on fields, but no expansion will be allowed.
"Any future plants that want to come in here, Anaerobic digester companies, will be banned. Any existing activity is allowed," said Otto
Monday night, the town board meets once again to discuss details of this ban. Otto and other citizens are calling for tougher penalties.
"Right now they have monetary penalties proposed. I personally would like to see a violation -- any violation would be penalized by having a suspension in production," noted Otto.
Otto says Quasar was represented at the town meeting when the ban was approved, were not happy, and have even hinted of potential litigation. The byproduct is generated at its two facilities in Wheatfield and West Seneca. The company wanted to set up a five million gallon storage tank in Wheatfield and offer it free of charge to farmers.
But Otto said the material is sewage sludge that could pose a health risk, potentially containing more than 60,000 toxins. The State DEC and EPA say the practice is legal, but DEC permits include a harmless clause. Quasar, which is based in Cleveland, says it recycles energy from organic waste.
Otto and other community activists are gearing up to launch another leg of their fight. They will be proposing a community bill of rights to give citizens a right for clean water and soil and clear from chemicals and pathogens applied to the soil.